Writing a preview for the very first series of the season is always tough because there’s absolutely zero momentum to analyze from either side. However, based on how things went for the Dodgers throughout the winter, one would think that Los Angeles has a clear advantage over a far less-talented Rockies squad, despite having to play on the road.
Obviously, some of the offseason’s biggest news involved former Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado being dealt to the Cardinals for a plethora of younger talent. Regardless of securing the NL Playoff Wild Card in 2017 and the play-in round for 2018, the Rockies never won a division title with Arenado on the team. And, with the third baseman’s departure, that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.
As far as injuries go, Colorado took a hard hit when they learned that lefty starting pitcher Kyle Freeland could miss up to a month with a severe shoulder strain. What’s more, they lost a decent reliever indefinitely in Scott Oberg when the righty underwent elbow surgery last week.
The Dodgers have a few bullpen injuries of their own. Brusdar Graterol is not intrinsically injured as much as he’s just not ready to compete, but he’ll still be starting the year on the injured list. Joe Kelly might be farther behind Graterol after dealing with arm soreness and an illness early in camp. Nevertheless, Graterol and Kelly’s absences have opened the door for all three of David Price, Tony Gonsolin, and Jimmy Nelson to be part of the Los Angeles Opening Day bullpen.
According to some early insight from skipper Dave Roberts, both Price and Gonsolin are viewed as potential long men, although either one could be used in a save opportunity should the situation present itself.
Regarding starting pitching matchups, staff ace Clayton Kershaw will get the ball for the opener, facing righty German Marquez. In Game 2 on Friday, newly acquired Trevor Bauer will square off against right-hander Antonio Senzatela. Saturday’s Game 3 will see Walker Buehler opposed by yet another right-handed starter in Jon Gray. The Dodgers will see their first opposing starting southpaw of the year in Sunday’s finale when Julio Urias goes up against Austin Gomber.
Dustin May is lined up to start the first game of the Oakland series for the Dodgers on Monday.
This year more than ever, the Dodgers could see a bit more consistency in their batting order, although more rest days will probably come for the regular players. We can pretty much guess the batting order for the Dodgers’ first four hitters—Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger. Roberts has stated that he’s likely to use Max Muncy in the six-hole.
There will not be a straight platoon in left field, although it will be interesting to see if AJ Pollock starts all three games against righty pitching. Moreover, as Kershaw’s “personal backstop,” one wonders if Austin Barnes gets the nod as the Opening Day catcher, even though Roberts has already indicated that Will Smith will get the bulk of the playing time behind the dish.
Despite Arenado’s departure, the Rockies still have some solid talent with the lumber. Trevor Story is a legitimate power threat across the league perennially, and Charlie Blackmon is probably as good of a Triple Crown candidate as anybody, although the verdict is still out on how the ball will fly at Coors Field this season. Raimel Tapia returns to play left field for the Rockies after leading the entire club with a .321 average last season.
On another note, Roberts said on Tuesday his five-man taxi squad for the season-opening road trip will be lefty reliever Garrett Cleavinger, catcher Keibert Ruiz, righty reliever Dennis Santana, and outfielder DJ Peters, with the fifth spot still up in the air.
First pitch for Opening Day is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. Pacific time.